January 31, 2014

Raspberry Coffee Cake

Whoever dreamed up coffee cake is a genius.  I mean, who doesn't love an excuse to eat cake for breakfast?  This delicious recipe comes from Taste of Home and would make an excellent brunch menu item.

Frozen raspberries work just as well as fresh in this recipe, so it's easy to make in the winter.  I used frozen for the cake, but garnished with fresh raspberries from Florida.  It's too warm in South Florida to grow raspberries, but they grow well further north.

Raspberry Coffee Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes plus 1 hour to cool

Ingredients (serves 8)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9"-round cake pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Cut in butter (I use a pastry blender) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk and vanilla together with a fork. Stir into crumb mixture, just until moistened.
  • Spoon batter into cake pan. The batter will be thick so don't worry about spreading it evenly, but do try to get it as close to the sides of the pan as possible.
  • In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in water until smooth. Add raspberries and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then stir for 1-2 minutes until thickened. Pour over cake batter and swirl raspberry mixture into the cake batter with a spoon.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter, then top with nuts. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for one hour before serving.
Recipe Source: Taste of Home
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January 29, 2014

Food Blog South 2014

This past weekend I attended my first food blog conference and it was a blast!  It was also my first time in Alabama and I liked the area so much that I want to return with Chris.  It was nerve-wracking going by myself but I met the nicest ladies there and was immediately put at ease.

There were 12 sessions to choose from, with something for everyone.  The first session I attended was a Photography and Food Styling workshop with Helene Dujardin & Tami Hardeman.  I have Helene's book, Plate to Pixel, and was excited to learn from her in-person.

The class was a little over my head, as Helene discussed f-stops and tilt-shift lenses but it turns out that was true for many others too which made me feel better.  Having a DSLR would be great, but they're so expensive and I'd rather use that money to travel.

I did learn a lot about props and found myself seeking out the clearance shelves at Target yesterday, where I found quite a few things to add to my collection.  I've found that props are a cheap way to improve food photos.

I had a true Southern experience at this conference.  There were lots of biscuits (and delicious lemon-raspberry jam from Southern Living), as well as grits, seafood from the Gulf and bread pudding.  I also heard a lot of y'alls :)

Liquid courage is often helpful in situations where you don't know anyone and there were a few options available at this conference.  Fresh Market hosted a cocktail hour with wine, and bourbon tastings were available all day.  This was my first time trying bourbon and I was surprised by how much I liked it.  I'm really hoping I can find Four Roses Bourbon in the Miami area.

I heard many people raving about lunch but it wasn't vegetarian friendly so instead I'll talk about dinner which was fantastic.  The best part was dessert from High Road.  They served pistachio honey ricotta gelato in a toasted brioche bun rolled in pistachios.  I've already been on the hunt for it and unfortunately it's not carried at any stores around here.

The after party was held at Good People Brewing Company which was a fun venue.  I have to give a shout-out to Erica who encouraged me to attend and even picked me up at my hotel.  It's so fun to connect with people when you quickly feel like old friends.

One of my favorite aspects of the conference was the keynote address by Molly of Orangette.  I was given her book A Homemade Life as a gift shortly after I started blogging and loved it!  After hearing more about her newest book, Delancey, I was intrigued and immediately pre-ordered the Kindle version.

I also ordered the Recipe Writer's Handbook which was recommended by several speakers.  I learned a lot from the Recipe Writing & Development session and the book should be helpful in creating a consistent format for my recipes.

The final item I ordered is a portable charger for my phone.  I was jealous of those at the conference who had one because poor reception in the building drained my iPhone battery and it was a pain to plug my phone in because we switched rooms frequently.

**2/10/14 update - I love the Anker portable charger I bought.  It's just as slick as promised!

If you're looking for advice on attending conferences I recommend a post from The Well on what to bring and what to expect.  I left the conference feeling inspired and anxious to attend my next conference which is BlogHer Food in Miami this May!

January 16, 2014

Taco Pizza

Chris loves every variation of tacos, so much so that he's willing to skip the meat for a vegetarian taco pizza.  This awesome recipe comes from Budget Bytes and I made just a few minor changes, such as adding black beans.

I had no idea that dough dockers existed until recently.  I've always used the fork method for docking, but my pizza crusts started having massive air bubbles so I turned to google where I found the dough docker recommendation.

I bought a small cheap Fox Run dough docker and am really happy with it.  It's the type of thing that is only worth purchasing though if you make pizza quite often as we do.

This week's CSA box contained cilantro, hot peppers and many, many tomatoes...perfect for making salsa!  I still find it odd to get CSA items I associate with summer in the dead of winter.  It makes me feel as though I'm living in the southern hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed.  Using a jar of salsa would make this recipe come together even more quickly.

Vegetarian Taco Pizza

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (12" pizza)
  • 15 oz can refried beans
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded co-jack cheese
  • 2 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped lettuce
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees with pizza stone in it for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out dough into a 12" circle, prick all over with a fork and bake on pizza stone for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the refried beans, salsa and chili powder until smooth.
  • After removing the par-baked crust from the oven, spread the bean mixture over the crust, then top with corn, black beans and cheese.
  • Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese has melted. Top with tomatoes, green onions and lettuce.
Recipe adapted from: Budget Bytes
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January 15, 2014

A Weekend in St. Augustine, Florida

When you live in South Florida, your only weekend road trip options are to visit other areas of Florida, as it takes about 6 hours to get to the state line.  This past weekend we visited St. Augustine, which is the oldest city in the United States.  It's a gorgeous area, with laid-back friendly people and we'd visit again in a heartbeat.

We stayed at Hilton Garden Inn directly across from the beach for $84, which was a bargain compared to the cost of hotels in South Florida.  We loved being able to easily walk to the ocean to view sunrise and sunset.  Everyone says Key West is a must-see place, but we both thought St. Augustine had so much more to offer.

St. Augustine ranked high on our list of places to visit due to it's history, but also because I had read an article about it having one of the ten best holiday lighting displays in the world.  Nights of Lights runs from late November to early February, and while the city did look nice, I wouldn't say it's worth visiting during that time period just to see it.

The Old City however is definitely worth seeing with its original 17th and 18th-century houses lining quaint cobblestone streets.  While wandering the streets of St Augustine we enjoyed popsicles from The Hyppo and saw a 4' 11" life-size statue of Ponce de Leon :)

Ponce de Leon is credited with the first recorded landing and the first detailed exploration of the Florida coast in 1513.  Successful Spanish colonization of the peninsula began at St. Augustine in 1565.

We each chose one place we wanted to visit during this trip, with the history buff selecting Castillo de San Marcos, a stone fortress built in 1672.  With Chris as my travel buddy, I've seen enough military forts to last a lifetime, but this time around I got to see something new - six men dressed in costume firing a cannon.

I chose St Augustine Lighthouse and Museum because I love climbing structures that allow me to get a great view of the city.  The museum was pretty interesting too.

Our favorite activity in St Augustine was a sailing trip on the Schooner Freedom.  We did their 2-hour sunset sail which includes beer and wine.  However, it was hot chocolate that I heard being requested most frequently as it was pretty chilly that evening. 

Chris grew up sailing, so he was happy to help raise the sails.  Unlike other boats we've been on, this captain actually sailed and left the motor off.  We enjoyed meeting Captain John, his wife Sarah and their 14 year-old son Jack who all work together.

I really enjoy weekend getaways.  No vacation days need to be used, a pet sitter doesn't have to be arranged and we're more likely to take time to relax than if we stay at home.

Staying in a hotel use to mean watching House Hunters, since I didn't have cable until recently but I have completely overdosed on HGTV and Food Network in the last few months, so I found myself wanting to read instead.  I'm currently devouring a great book called Where'd You Go Bernadette that was recommended by Daily Nibbles.

January 10, 2014

Blood Orange Margarita Ice Cream Cocktail

So I didn't plan on doing a series of ice cream cocktails, but somehow I'm on number two in the same week.  I blame leftover ice cream and whipped cream.  If you like orange dreamsicles, you'll love this latest creamy cocktail. 

I know ice cream might not sound appealing right now considering how cold it is around the rest of the country, but the blood orange season is short, so this cocktail has to be enjoyed in the winter.

Florida is known for citrus but unfortunately blood oranges do not grow well here.  They fare better in more arid climates with lower humidity and colder winters than Florida provides.  Spain, Italy and California produce the majority of blood oranges.

This drink starts with my favorite margarita recipe, which is added to vanilla ice cream in a blender.  The result is a softly pink hued but decidedly boozy ice cream cocktail.

We typically use Patrón Citrónge when making these margaritas but felt compelled to buy Solerno blood orange liqueur when we saw it as an option at our local liquor store.  I'm not sure how widely distributed it is, but definitely buy it if you can find it! 

Blood Orange Margarita Ice Cream Cocktail

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: N/A

Ingredients (2 cocktails)
  • 3 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz orange liqueur (I recommend Patrón Citrónge)
  • 2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 3 oz blood orange juice (1-2 oranges)
  • 3 oz tequila (I recommend 1800 Reposado)
  • 4 cups vanilla ice cream
  • whipped cream, for garnish
  • In a small saucepan, make a simple syrup by combining a 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar over medium high heat. Heat until sugar is dissolved; remove from heat and cool.
  • Add ice to a cocktail shaker (about half full), then add simple syrup, orange liqueur, lime juice, blood orange juice and tequila. Shake for approximately 30 seconds or until ice cold.
  • Add margarita mixture to blender along with vanilla ice cream. Puree until smooth. Divide among two glasses and top with whipped cream.
Recipe Source: Creative Culinary
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January 08, 2014

Grasshopper {ice cream cocktail}

Wisconsin is known for supper clubs and there's no better way to end a meal at a supper club then with an ice cream cocktail.  This recipe comes from Greenwood Supper Club in Fish Creek, Wisconsin via a Saveur article on ice cream cocktails.

According to a recent BlogHer article, I shouldn't be using striped straws anymore :)  If you're a blogger and haven't yet read "10 Food Blog Trends That Should Stop," it's totally worth a read.

If you like mint chocolate chip ice cream, you'll love this drink.  If you're not a fan of minty drinks, try a pink squirrel instead which is made with an almond-flavored liqueur called crème de noya. 

In order to make a green grasshopper, be sure to buy green crème de menthe.  We mistakenly bought a clear version, so I used food coloring to make it green.  With St. Patrick's Day coming up, a grasshopper could also be served as a boozy shamrock shake.

If you're more interested in having a cocktail than dessert, you can add 3 oz of whole milk in place of the ice cream and make it in a cocktail shaker.  That's the Big Bang Theory version of this drink that allows Raj to talk to women.


Ingredients (1 cocktail)
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1 oz green crème de menthe
  • 1 oz clear crème de cacao
  • whipped cream, for garnish
  • Puree ice cream, the crème de cacao and half of the crème de menthe in a blender.  Pour into a cocktail glass.  Top with whipped cream and drizzle remaining crème de menthe over the top.  Serve immediately.
Recipe Source: Saveur - Jan/Feb 2014
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January 05, 2014

Ploughman's Lunch

One of our first meals while living in England was a ploughman's lunch at a pub and we loved it.  After seeing a great vegetarian combination mentioned on The Kitchn I knew I needed to try it.  A traditional pub style ploughman's lunch consists of crusty bread, cheddar cheese, pickled onions and chutney.  It may also contain ham and apple slices. 

The version I tried today called for a mountain cheese (such as gruyere or emmental), sourdough bread, grainy mustard, bread & butter pickles and hard-boiled eggs.  In other words, cheese + bread + spread + vegetable + protein.

I really like hard-boiled eggs, but never think to make them so I'm glad this gave me an excuse to get some made.  I followed advice from It's Fitting on how to cook them and it worked perfectly.  Here are the basics:

1) In a large saucepan, add eggs and enough cold water to cover them by an inch.
2) Over medium-high heat bring the water to a boil.
3) As soon as the water starts to boil, remove from heat and cover for 10 minutes.
4) Remove eggs and put them cold water for 10 minutes.

The little baguette slices made for a might tasty sandwich.  I grew up on Swiss cheese sandwiches made with rye bread and mustard, which is definitely my favorite sandwich combination.

The slate board I used for our ploughman's lunch is from Uncommon Goods.  It's my favorite site to buy things that I didn't even know I needed :)   Today I found myself wishing it was a little bigger as I tried to arrange everything on it, but it's probably a great size to use as a cheese board which is what it's intended for.

The board comes with chalk, but I used a chalk ink pen instead that I recently got from Amazon.  The pen works really well and is easy to erase with water.  I bought it to go along with chalk labels that I also ordered from Amazon.  I love the look of these labels on Oxo containers.  I'm also using them on my glass jars, but they're not ideal because the Ball jars don't have a flat area to place them on.